Josselyn and Blanca Villanueva hold candles during a silent vigil in honor of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) at T.B. Butler Fountain Plaza in Tyler, Texas. Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | AP

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine says she’s confident that Congress will preserve and modify an Obama-era program that protects young, undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Collins told reporters after an event at York County Community College that lawmakers should act to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA.

The Trump administration this week moved to end DACA, which shields young people brought to the United States as children from being deported and allows them to apply for work permits for up to two years. But Trump also gave Congress six months to pass a bill that could keep a version of the program in place.

Collins says while she believes that former President Barack Obama’s use of executive order to create the program was an overreach, members of both parties are likely to preserve at least part of it.

“I really believe that will happen. There’s bipartisan support for protecting these young people as long as they’re in good standing. The issue is going to to be how broadly the immigration bill is written,” she says.

Collins says there are currently two DACA bills. She supports one, which would allow immigrant children to stay so long as they have a relatively clean criminal history — one misdemeanor, as long as it’s not for serious offenses.

She opposes a more lenient second bill that would allow some DACA applicants to stay if they commit up to three misdemeanors. Collins says that’s three too many, especially since many misdemeanors are pleaded down during the legal process.

Earlier this week, Collins said that such children should not be punished for the actions of their parents. And on Friday she went further, adding that they should be given a path to citizenship.

Speaking with reporters, she cited the experience of Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta.

“To me he’s such a powerful example of someone who was brought to this country by his parents, knew no other country, loved our country and gave his life to our country. Would we want to deport someone like Rafael Peralta?” she said.

Peralta was killed during a firefight in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004. He was later awarded the Navy Cross, the service’s second-highest decoration for valor. And Peralta was further honored when the Navy christened a Bath Iron Works-built destroyer in his name.

While Collins is confident that Congress will move to enact a DACA bill, she says the Trump administration gave lawmakers precious little time to do so. She says lawmakers should pass a bill as quickly as possible.

This report appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.